Memory of one girl helps motivate action on opioid crisis

By CONNIE CAIN RAMSEY

I knew Maddie Linsenmeir when she was a young, cheerful, energetic girl taking ski lessons with my children at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond. How could I know back then that this rosy-cheeked little girl would become a symbolic figure in the battle to end the opioid crisis now facing our state and our country?

As an assistant judge in family court in Chittenden County, I am witness to what opioids are doing to our community’s families. I see addiction so powerful that young parents end up choosing drugs over their children’s welfare.

Earlier this month, I attended a presentation in Washington, D.C. arranged by the Office of White House Intergovernmental Affairs. Several topics pertinent to our state were covered by White House Cabinet members and staff.

One of the speakers, Jim Carroll, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, touched home when he read aloud the moving obituary of Maddie.

Carroll made it very clear that his department considers opioid addiction a disease, and curing it is his highest priority.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. A very important bipartisan bill was signed into law last week to help our country deal with the massive opiate crisis that is costing tens of thousands of lives every year in our country.

The AMA-approved bill, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, along with several other provisions, focuses on improving access to treatment services, including medication-based treatment and removing patient restrictions on Medicaid and Medicare, even if the patient is in jail.

The new law also allows the fining of drug companies and distributors for allowing the overprescription of opioids and allows government authorities to research non-addictive drugs for patient pain management.

To help eliminate the drug flow into the U.S., the law also creates methods to check for foreign shipments of illegal drugs to the U.S.

They say that hope springs eternal. For me, I am hopeful that this new law will bring the opiate crisis to its knees.

Locally, we need to eliminate the market for opioids by giving addicted people in our community the help they need. Once the market dries up, the illegal drug providers will leave us alone. Some might say this is wishful thinking, but for that little girl I remember on the ski slope, I am willing to give everything I can to turn wishful thinking positive action.

Connie Cain Ramsey is an assistant judge in Chittenden County Family Court.

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